Sophia Lamar Is a Popular Loner

Sophia Lamar Is a Popular Loner

Story by Ivan Guzman / Photography by Anna Bloda / Styling by Janelle Best / Hair by Amy Haben / Make-up by Mitch Yoshida
Feb 06, 2024

Sophia Lamar is nervous for this interview. The actress, model and muse has been making a name for herself on the screen, down the runway, in New York and around the globe for decades now. But she doesn’t want to talk about the past. “People should find out more about me before interviewing me, because I feel like I have to tell people what I’ve done, and it makes me feel like I’m bragging.”

It’s true. When you type “Sophia Lamar” into Google, the algorithm feeds you a certain idea: ‘90s Club Kid, trans icon, star of HBO’s Veneno. But the Cuban artist makes it a point to defy any categories or perceptions of herself. In fact, she doesn’t even exist in the same realm as me and you.

Lamar is a living testament that things have always been the same, but also that they’re constantly evolving. Like a mystic, Lamar looms around every corner of New York City, walking with her head down but always in search of something. Her mind is like an encyclopedia, but she doesn’t like to be called smart. “I’m too honest to be smart,” she tells PAPER.

Her imaginative aura makes her the perfect person for brands across fashion, culture, nightlife and music to tap into, which is how she makes her living nowadays. And even after all these years, she still manages to be the coolest person in whatever room she walks into.

Fellow New York mainstay Anna Bloda spent a day with Lamar to capture her in her element for this exclusive PAPER editorial. We sat down with Sophia in a cozy West Village cafe to discuss fitness, shame and seeing yourself on screen.

Clothing: Desert Stars Vintage

How was the shoot with Anna?

The shoot with Anna was good. I don’t think that I was the right person for that job, either. I love her aesthetic, but I’m not her aesthetic. Her aesthetic is very sensual. It’s a little stripper. And I didn’t know what to expect from the shoot, what she wanted. I was not happy because I didn’t think I did the right job. I’m always unsatisfied with everything that I do because I always think that I could’ve done better. It happens with everything I do. Even with Veneno, I think it could’ve been better.


I’m not a perfectionist. I’m just always unsatisfied. Perfection doesn’t exist, it’s only in your mind. And I’m not gonna suffer thinking [about perfection]. But I always cringe when I see myself on the screen. I actually did a film, and there was a premiere, and I didn’t go. This film that I did last year called Star. I didn’t go to see the film. I don’t like to see myself.

Why do you think that is? Imposter syndrome?

First of all, I like to see the film before I go to the premiere. I don’t enjoy seeing myself in front of the audience. I’m just looking for imperfections at all times. I’m so hard on myself. In the premiere, I was so uncomfortable. I felt horrible. I left completely depressed.

Was it the same situation with Veneno?

I didn’t wanna do Veneno at first. I had a career before in film, I’ve been in more than thirty films. A lot of people don’t know my work. Veneno was very mainstream. It was on HBO, so a lot of people saw me. It was exactly what I expected. People thought that I was that person. I don’t know if you ever read this book called The Crowd by Gustave Le Bon. People are stupid. I actually got emails from a lot of transgender people asking me to be the LGBT godmother of the Veneno character. They saw that I was that person. That’s what I was afraid of. I was afraid for people to think that I was that person in that character in general. I don’t want people to think that I wake up every morning in that pink coat.

What do you wanna be, though?

I just wanna be me. I wanna become whatever I want, when I want to. I don’t wanna have tp compromise or have responsibility to be anything, except when I have a script in my hands and people ask me to do that. I said no to Veneno twice and someone convinced me to do it. I’m glad that I did, because it was great. And then people tried to get me to do this or that in very similar projects, and I said no. I’m never gonna do anything like that with playing transgender. I’d rather play a nun, an 80-year-old woman. I don’t care about being beautiful on the screen. I just wanna be out of the box. People always tend to view you in a box. And you cannot get out of that box. I have roles ranging from a nun to a hooker. But no transgender roles. I refuse. What is the point of being on the screen playing transgender? Actors are actors to become somebody else. You don’t wanna play yourself.

What’s your favorite film you’ve done recently?

I did this short film you can watch on YouTube called The Zanctuary. I loved that character. It’s about a really shady bar in the ‘70s in New York City. A lot of human trafficking, drugs and alcohol happen there. I play this woman who is confined in that bar, in the basement, because she knows a lot of secrets about the bar, and she’s afraid to go to the police. She finally escapes and goes to the police. I fell in love with her. How are your chicken tenders?

Good. You want some?

I don’t like fried food.

What’s your diet like?

I eat a lot of fish and vegetables. My vice is sugar. I eat a lot of sugar. I love French pastries. I don’t like cupcakes.

Do you work out every day?

I do. I do it more for mental stimulation than anything else.

Same. It’s more mental.

Yeah, it makes you feel better. You feel like a new person. You can be depressed or hungover, and then you do a little 15-20 minute cardio and you feel new. You have a new vitality, and you go, ‘Fuck the world.’ I feel great.

You say every interviewer asks you the same questions. What are those questions?

Club Kid [questions]. You know, I had a life before that and I have a life after that. I’ve done many things. And no one ever documented me aside from nightlife. Yeah, I’m still doing nightlife, but I’m doing so many things in my life. That’s what I always tell people: they should find out more about me before interviewing me, because I feel like I have to tell people what I have done, and it makes me feel like I’m bragging. I’m a model, actress, recording artist. I don’t call myself a recording artist, but I’ve recorded music and have performed live in different performing arts spaces.

Before the Club Kid days, I had a life, and after being a Club Kid it was a completely different life. I was part of electroclash and The Misshapes, and I think that was more important than the Club Kid. The Club Kid was a job, and I was there doing a job. I went there, did the job and went home. I wasn’t friends there with anybody in particular. I actually thought that there were too many drugs involved. I don’t think that they were on the same intellectual level. So I never had a direct relationship with anybody. I even traveled with them, because it was a job. But it wasn’t important or relevant in my life. I don’t think it opened doors for me or anything like that. After what happened and the whole fiasco, it was hard for me to get a job because I had the reputation for that and no one wanted to be related with all that drama and drugs.

You mean the Michael Alig of it all?

Yeah, after all that happened it was hard for me to get a job. And see, we are talking about it, and I don’t wanna talk about it.

When you type Sophia Lamar into YouTube, that’s what comes up. The Twilo stuff, too.

The Twilo thing was another thing. I think the Twilo lawsuit and everything, I was very naive with the whole thing. I didn’t know that I was used. I was completely used by so many people, especially lawyers. I really felt used. It was another chapter in my life.

It must’ve felt a little good at the time, getting on TV and getting all this attention.

I’m not that kind of person. I’m a Gemini. I’m very wild and very quiet. I don’t pursue stardom or anything like that. Maybe when I was a teenager, I wanted to be a rockstar. That was very delusional. But I don’t think that I would be able to handle fame. My freedom is very important to me. The whole idea of being a slave, and if you go to the corner store, you have to put lashes on and heels just to satisfy somebody. I’m not that kind of person. I’ve never been.

You said that nightlife was just a job. If you think back to that time, what’s the most fun memory you can think of?

A lot of people ask me about my life all the time, about how great it was in nightlife back then. I say, it’s never been great. It’s always the same.

What excites you about NYC today? I saw you went out to some underground party the other night.

There are a lot of things to be excited about in New York. New York changes constantly. The thing is that people have this FOMO about missing out. I don’t go to fashion parties because they’re always the same. Everybody’s networking. Fashion week, I don’t even go to after parties for shows that I walk in because I think that it’s people networking, a lot of people outside waiting to get in, which is a little pathetic. When they get in and they realize that there’s nothing fantastic inside…. But New York is great, and you find fantastic nights when you’re not expecting it. You can go and sit and have a drink at Clandestino, and it’s better than going to a high-end hotel. There’s a lot of new people arriving in the city every day. I don’t look back.

Tell me about “Shitty Faggot.”

That was never a song. I used to do a podcast with Jonny McGovern called “Hey Qween!” I had a segment called “What Sophia Lamar Hates This Week.” When he approached me for the project, I didn’t wanna go with my name. I wanted to use a character that was a mix of a lot of characters that I’ve seen — an angry columnist. But he was like, no, I wanna go with your name. So one day, it was two lists: one makes you a shitty faggot, and one makes you a crummy faggot. So they owned the audio, and they paid me. Somebody put music behind it, and I was like, okay, and I moved on. It was another stigma that I have in my life, that song, which was never a song. I have another song that I recorded for Electroclash called “Fake.” But you didn’t see that.

You don’t see me on the runway, but you see “Shitty Faggot.” People see what they wanna see. Another thing behind me. I’m ready for next month’s fashion week. I have two more films that I worked on coming out. Whatever project that people call me and I like, I do it. I’ve gotten to this point where I can choose what I wanna do. Sometimes, money doesn’t even make me do it if I don’t wanna do it. I’ve done a lot of things in my life for money, and you drag that stigma with you all your life. Here we go, Michael Alig. Here we go, shitty faggot.

The reputation.

This is what I was afraid of with this interview. Because beyond “Shitty Faggot,” Michael Alig and Twilo, it’s like... you pay your prices in life.

I don’t think you should feel ashamed with anything you’ve done in your life.

I don’t feel ashamed, but I feel frustrated by the fact that people talk about that. They wanna ask me in every interview, I end up talking about the same thing. I’m going next week to Denmark for fashion week, and I have to tell you. You probably didn’t see me in Elena Velez’s show I do every season, she won the CFDA Fashion Award. But we’re talking about Michael Alig, which is thirty years ago. It’s not that I’m ashamed, it’s that I wanna move on with this. It is sad when I’m doing things more important than Veneno or “Shitty Faggot” and people ask me about it.

I think it’s more that young people see you as a legend because of everything you’ve done in your past, but I can see how that can be frustrating.

I do a lot of things underground that make me completely happy. I’d rather do things underground. Every year, I work with 10-15 independent artists in different fields — performance, films, fashion.

I think the Club Kid is long gone. It was mainstreamed, and then it died.

The Club Kid is gone. It was mainstreamed because it was shocking. For people to say that they are a Club Kid now is like for people to say that they are a hippie now. It was shocking at the time, because there were a lot of drugs involved.

Do you have any hobbies that people would be surprised by?

Sleeping. It’s the closest thing to being dead. I don’t have hobbies. Learning. I am constantly learning every day. I’m hungry for new things in life, I’m always searching for new things. I’m involved with a lot of young underground artists because I’m always searching. A lot of people try to figure out what’s going on with me, how I get connected with young different people. I’m always searching. I never feel comfortable in a niche. No matter what anybody wants to tag me with, anybody would want to put me in a box with, I never belonged with any specific group of people. People say she’s a Dimes Square person, she’s a Bushwick person, the Club Kid. I went on The Phil Donahue Show twenty years ago, of course it was a testimony on film, but I didn’t belong to that, either. I’ve always been a bridge to different groups of people. I’m searching for new things constantly.

You’re very much a lone wolf.

I am a popular loner. I like to be alone a lot. I spend a lot of time at home reading. I’ve never had a mentor. I actually went out on the street in Havana when I was very young, 13, and being on the street at 13, I didn’t know at that moment that I was a child. I was out as Sophia. I stumbled onto a lot of horrible things in my life, but I learned. Because I never had a mentor. But I have encountered a lot of people in my life who have helped me and been really important. When I was very young, ironically I used to be around older people. Really way older than me. Before I went out, I met extraordinary people like this retired clown who was my mentor. He was a retired clown, and he taught me a lot of things that I applied into acting and in life, because life is theater. I was hanging out with him when I was 10, 11, 12, I was hanging out with people in their sixties. Just learning from them, the skill of being alive.

I’ve always felt older, too.

It has to do with what type of mind you have. I see my nieces and nephews at 10, 11, and they’re very 10, 11. At 10, 11, I was more cultured. I went to see films that were for more mature people. I hate when people call me smart, because I don’t have academia. I think that academia is useless. If you don’t learn anything specific or tangible, like when you become a dentist, that has some value because you learn something tangible. But some people go to college to learn philosophy, and I think you’re born a philosopher. But hey, if you have the money to burn, why not?

I think I’m too honest to be smart. Smart people are more corny. But I’m very cultured. I can say that without any embarrassment. Because I read. I’m learning every day. I’m always completely curious.

Who in New York do you love right now?

Right now, I love Matt Weinberger and Avery Addison’s parties of music and poetry around the city. I think they’re great. Outside of traditional nightlife, I think they’re visionaries right now. I think DeSe Escobar is doing a fantastic job with her Club Glam. I wish she’d bring it more often. It’s a really good mix of different people and a different crowd. I love that. We’re very similar in a way. She’s always searching, she always has an eye for people. I think these musicians Fckers are doing great projects. Everything else is the same. There’s nothing wrong with the same, because people like it, that’s why it’s the same.

Do you meditate?

When I sleep. I cannot meditate. My mind is so active. I cannot relax.

Maybe that’s why you like working out.

Yeah. For me, it’s like all the energy just goes out.

In another life, say you had to have a normal job. What do you think you would do?

I would love to work in a bookstore. I would be a nun. Back in Cuba, I worked really hard. I worked in construction, believe it or not. For a short period of time. And then I worked for a few years in a guitar factory. I always worked. It’s another thing with being independent and free. Working is really fantastic. Whatever you do, you can consider it a job. It can be prostitution. Great. It’s hard work. Sexual work is real labor. You know those people you have to deal with, it’s worse than customer service. That’s where you satisfy the customer.

I think you’re so much more than your past.

I’m still relevant, I’m still here, I’m still working. That’s proof that I’m more than my past. But like I said, it’s kind of frustrating. But hey, I’m moving on, just like that baby screaming behind us.

Do you want kids?

I would be a horrible mother. I love children so much, but somebody else’s children. I don’t want that responsibility. I lived in Texas, but I never learned how to drive because I was afraid. I don’t want the responsibility. I try to live my life simple. I’m trying to live my life like a crazy adolescent. That makes me happier than any responsibility. Maybe when I get older.

I don’t have the patience to be a mother. I really admire people who have the patience to deal with children. I admire my mother more and more every day to deal with me as a child. I was a very different child.

But that’s what makes you great.

Thank you. [The Beatles’ “Blackbird” starts playing] I love this song. It makes me feel like when I came to this country. When he says, “You’ve been waiting for this moment to be free, take these broken wings and learn to fly.” It’s so fantastic. I love that.

Who’s your favorite artist of all time?

I love Bob Dylan. Everybody is shocked when I say that. I love his voice.

You said you only like male artists.

I like Lana Del Rey and a few other people. I love her voice, and it’s not pop. You can hear different instruments in the background. I like Azealia Banks.

Period. Thank you.

Thank you.

Photography: Anna Bloda
Styling: Janelle Best
Hair: Amy Haben
Make-up: Mitch Yoshida